The race paradigm

July 25th, 2010 by John Morris
 Definition #3 of paradigm:
set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality especially in an intellectual discipline.

Inside us, we have paradigms sitting, waiting and craving the proof they are dead-on. They usually are not distracted by conflicting evidence.

One of my paradigms is difficult to deal with. I believe we have inner racists lying in wait to become our default position. It makes that ugly thought we get in a racially charged situation. If what you think cause bile to rise in your mouth, you’re fighting your inner racist. Good for you.

Recently, the news was full of story about a brief second in time when Shirley Sherrod of the Georgia USDA had one of these moments. Sitting across from a white farmer, she recalled all the black farmers who didn’t get the help they needed. In that critical moment, she thought she would not give this white farmer her full support. She even said so in a taped video speech to the NAACP this March.

It was just 30 seconds of a 45 minute speech. The USDA did shabby damage control and compelled her to resign before it went viral with the conservative news yakkers. There is not much I can add to this storyline.

Let me do otherwise. I watched Sherrod’s complete speech. She continued her story with a narrative that left me impressed with the high level of service and humane care she gave to this farmer. She saved his farm when others stood by. Today, this farmer praises her for her help.

Shirley Sherrod had her racist thought and did not allow it to cause her to act improperly. That’s the way out of this race mess we find ourselves in.

Sherrod’s speech:

Music then and now

July 24th, 2010 by John Morris

Music has been my companion since birth and will be with me until my final breath. My favorite choices in music remain while others lose favor only to return later. Then there are some genres that do get limited play time with me - country - while others never make it at all - opera.

How I listen to music has changed though. When I was young and full of spirit, it made my body move and took me to places my adventurous mind liked.

It’s over 40 years later, and I listen now for the memories and to return my spirit to those earlier days. As for moving to the music, I can still get down, but I have trouble getting back up. Beside that, no one wants to see an aging boomer do the boogaloo.

Smokey Robinson sings “Tracks of My Tears”, and I remember slow dancing at Bishop Shanahan’s teen dances. As a bonus, Joni Mitchell sharply describes the event in “Come In From the Cold.”

I listen to “Loving Her Is Easier Then Anything I’ll Ever Do Again” and marvel at how Kris Kristofferson was able to capture the depths a man can love a woman.

When Janis Joplin belts out “Piece of My Heart”, I mourn the loss of this giant talent and remember wishing I could have been there to save her from herself.

I hope the sound track of  your life treats you this well.

What I learned from…iTunes

July 10th, 2010 by John Morris

Every where we go there are learning experiences. Often called failure, it is possible to actually learn prior to entering any destructive phases.

This brings me to iTunes.

My journey started when I was gifted with an iPod by my wife, Lyn. To use this then cutting edge technology, I would download songs from iTunes at the fire sale price of $0.99 each. This meant I could program this small device with 1,600 favorite tunes and have nearly instant access to any of these tunes within seconds. It would be the sound track of my life.

This activity became a study in overkill.  The iPod’s capacity far exceeded my actual favorite songs’ total of about 400. It was here where I decided to slow down the process. Every now and then, I’ll add a song, but I’m done. Remaining old songs don’t mean that much to me and nothing new is meeting the standard. I do find some gems in non-rock genres but not in large numbers.

Lesson learned: I accepted my life’s experiences palls compared to technology’s ability to catalog it. To get more results, I would need to lower my standards. I learned to accept things as they are presented to me and not push beyond some limits if to do so would dilute the original goal.

Circle on the Cross

July 5th, 2010 by John Morris

In his song by this name, Keni Thomas educates us about special markings on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC. A cross means the inscribed name was Missing In Action or MIA. If he or she surfaced later, a circle would be placed around the cross to signify the circle of life. There are no circles on the Vietnam Wall.

What are the chances that anyone remains to be repatriated from the Vietnam War? Probably as slim as can be imagined but of course, one is too many.

Today, John McCain is in a dog fight for a Arizona Senate seat with a “more Conservative than thou” candidate. McCain is being haunted by a ghost from his past. What has happened to the POWs the North Vietnamese supposedly were holding as ransom for war repatriations we never paid?

The core article is written by a major player, Pulitzer Prize winning author of the Killing Fields,  Sydney Schanberg.

The article reads that McCain and John Kerry used their positions on the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs to bottleneck information about non-returning POW/MIAs. This article tries to  expose a side of these two men they would rather hide if true.

I did find what I read to be distrubing since it shot clean to the core of my opinion of John McCain. I always believe him to be the leader for all things POW/MIA who worked diligently to bring light and closure to these issues. The article would have the reader believe the opposite.

As is my way, I went looking for supporting information – a second source as it were. My problem was that all other articles led back to Schanberg as its sole source. I gave up my search without conclusive results. Is McCain the POW/MIA advocate I had believed him to be or an evil force for blocking the light?

One fault I found with Schanberg’s article is he relied heavily on quotes by North Vietnamese officials. This group was particularly crafty at sending up false trail balloons in order to get what they wanted for little in return. The reader is left trying to prove negatives which is always troublesome.

My final shot: Schanberg also reports how prisioner McCain did break under torture and confess to war crimes allowing the enemy to use it for propaganda. McCain has admitted this happened and how much he regrets it. I don’t understand why Schanberg included these facts unless he just wants to dump on McCain.

I invite you to read more on this subject. I know I will. If I can dig up more acceptable information, I’ll blog about it later.

Just a little bit hypocritical?

July 1st, 2010 by John Morris

My Aunt Theresa passed away this week after battling Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases. Our extended families were saddened, and we paid our last respects to her and acted to comfort her immediate family.

At the funeral, I watched as people positioned themselves in the Church. I saw my 91 year old Aunt be escorted to a front pew by one daughter and one grand-daughter. Two of her other children were in the church and did not sit with her. I believe this is because they have been feuding for years.* Her estranged daughter walked passed her Mother twice to do a scripture reading with no acknowledgements either way.  

As sad as this is, it is amplified by the fact this family has suffered the previous loss of two sons and another daughter. They are all they have, and they choose to withhold their love to each other. I don’t know the reasons and do not know if I’d understand any better if I did.

The thought running in my mind was we were all there in one of life’s most pivotal moments. Where else are the fragility of life and the need for bonding more relevant than at a loved one’s funeral? And yet some of us still hold on to the hurt and push others away.

Here were the hypocritical notes come in. I am the same person I scold here. I am estranged from my one sister and choose to stay this way. Maybe I can take my own advice and find a way to get back with her.

Like most people, I always think others should make the first effort, and I can leave my existing position intact. I can be magnanimous and forgiving if the offenders learn the errors of their ways; find contrition and ask for my forgiveness.

Being a little bit hypocritical is like being a little pregnant.

* Note: I hope I’m wrong about this.


The old boy writing this blog wears many hats: Vietnam Veteran, husband & father, salesman and techno-dude. After my service with the Army Security Agency, I operated a sign company for nineteen years, The sign industry changed after CAD/CAM machines made the task easy enough for the non-talented. I sold my company and never looked back.

Life has granted me a life partner better than I deserve. My wife, Lyn is a transplanted Kansas gal. Her bliss is teaching kindergarten and first grade.

I am the most proud of my children. My son, Adam lives an international life teaching English and living in Sozhou, China. He is married to one of life's truly lovely women, Yuri Kim. My daughter, Beth grew up in a small town and found her way in life means working and living in major cities like Chicago and New York. She and her life partner, Julie Sterling married in LaJolla, California in 2010.

I like getting the newest gadgets, but also I like to use things until they are useless, i.e., my last personal car was an 88 Honda Prelude Si.

I wrote a Vietnam Veteran newsletter for nine years. During this journey, I learned I like to write. It is a harmless exercise that rewards honest effort while tolerating failure gracefully. I been away from it for too long. My son gave me the blog, and it was a lifeline back to writing.

My best advice is to show the world what you can do but to accept only your opinion of who and what you are.

Update: In August 2008, my job became one of the half-million jobs that went away that month. I took the following year getting the home ready for my official retirement.

In October 2009, I took a part-time job as a saleman at the vaulted Maxwell's Hardware.

On November 29, 2011, I reached my 66th birthday, and I officially started Social Security. I intend to stay with Maxwell's as long as I can contribute.